On The Edge by Richard Hammond

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On The Edge by Richard Hammond

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: Richard and Mindy Hammond open their emotions fully to recount Richard's 2006 accident and his recovery. It's not a biography in the traditional sense, but it's a tremendously moving read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 344 Date: September 2007
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
ISBN: 978-0297853275

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Like many loyal fans, I was delighted by the return of Top Gear to BBC 2 recently (2007). A little over a year ago, however, along with what seemed like the majority of the country, I was very upset when I heard the news on September 20th 2006 of the accident suffered by one of the show's presenters, Richard Hammond.

The beauty of Hammond's TV work, no matter what programme it's on, is that he makes it all look so much fun and so easy. He gives off the air of being one of your mates who just happens to be on TV, especially on Brainiac and Top Gear, where his cheeky sense of humour and his natural enthusiasm are given full rein. Whenever you watch him, it feels like he's about to walk out of the studio, into the pub and say "you'll never guess what I just did/drove/exploded" and have you in fits of laughter for the rest of the evening telling you all about it.

We get a brief look at how the cheeky young boy became the cheeky young man and how he has been obsessed with motoring since he could drive a toy car. He sketches in a few details of his time in local radio and as a Top Gear presenter, before recounting the day of his accident. His wife Mindy takes over the story while Richard is easing in and out of consciousness in Leeds General Infirmary and you get both sides of the story once Richard has been transferred to Bristol and is more coherent.

The parts of the book are quite distinct, with Mindy's parts being quite simply written but full of emotion and Richard's having more humour, but in the immediate aftermath of his coma, written in short, snappy sentences. It's superbly written, as you get to feel Mindy's distress and the love she has for her husband and the short sentences convey Richard's mental distress and confusion as well as any words he could have used.

The book takes you through the whole range of emotions. Before the accident, recollections of Richard's about his horse riding style being like a monkey riding a piano remind you of the cheeky bloke he is and you can't help but laugh. Later on, Mindy's thought whilst looking at Richard is a coma My world was in front of me, in that bed with tubes and monitors all over him conveys her love so simply and so beautifully that I was nearly moved to tears; a feeling that would be repeated more than once as I read her part. But even in the darkest moments, Richard's humour shines through. I can't think of anyone else who would observe that Post-traumatic amnesia helped alleviate the boredom.

I was a fan of Richard Hammond before, but having read this I am full of admiration for both Richard and Mindy. They have opened up their lives and their emotions to tell the story of the most personally harrowing experience that either of them is likely to go through. Every moment of weakness, every time they caused themselves embarrassment, every emotional and physical trauma is on the page for us to read. The whole recovery process was an act of bravery from them both and this is possibly the final, yet bravest step of all and one which may help those recovering from similar incidents or with family or friends in Richard's position.

I'll admit I was a little disappointed at the start that there wasn't more on Richard's life prior to the accident, as his early years were very much sketched over. This makes the book more an experience of an incident than a true biography, although as that was a defining moment in his life, this is understandable. Richard is determined not to let this accident stop him, so there will hopefully be time for a full autobiography in a few years. I may not have got what I expected from this book, but what is here is a wonderfully emotional account of an accident, a fight for health and a deep and abiding love that should be sold with a free box of tissues.

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Buy On The Edge by Richard Hammond at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy On The Edge by Richard Hammond at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy On The Edge by Richard Hammond at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy On The Edge by Richard Hammond at Amazon.com.


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